As the saying goes – there are two types of people in the world…
In this case those who need to have pictures to follow and those who don’t - I’m talking about cookery books here.
Personally I come in the second group I am happy to follow recipes whether there is an illustration or not. To my mind there is less disappointment when the recipe doesn’t look like the illustration and it gives me more licence to make changes, add ingredients (or take them away).
My brother, on the other hand, wouldn’t buy a cookery book if all the recipes didn’t have a photo outlining exactly what the final article should look like. To his mind, you need a guide so that you can see if you have got it right.
Not being competitive, like my uber competitive brother, I don’t mind if I get it ‘wrong’ as long as it tastes good and a picture won’t tell you that and I’m not disappointed when the dish doesn’t ‘look like it supposed to’.
You can see where this argument (I’m sorry I mean discussion) is going. I love to mull over a good cook book with beautiful illustrations. It makes your mouth water and spurs you on to try something new, a picture of food does indeed paint a thousand words. But, and it is a big BUT, these lovely pictures are often taken in a studio, using foods that haven’t been cooked using the recipe given, in fact sometimes not even using food.
When I was writing Recipe for an Unknown Kitchen I took the photos myself, mainly because I didn’t have the money to pay a photographer but also I liked the idea that the whole book would be my creation. So I borrowed a book from the library on photographing food, how fascinating that was and what an eye opener! Maybe I was a bit naive but I honestly was amazed by ice creams that were in fact made of candle wax, painted fruit and vegetables and polystyrene biscuits. So what chance do you have trying to meet those standards?
One reader commented that my photos weren’t very professional. I don’t mind, they weren’t it’s true, but they were actual photos of the food I had cooked moments before to the recipe in the book that I was happy tasted the way it should and let’s face it, there are enough disappointments when closely followed recipes don’t taste good or fall apart because the recipe hasn’t been tested properly.
So while I still love to salivate over food photos in books and magazines, and I can tell you I spend a lot of time drooling over cookery books, I don’t take any notice of the illustrations. And to answer the argument, how do you know what the dish supposed to look like – look at the plate!